The State broadcaster has been renting out parts of its premises to a private TV production house, without any public call for tender.
Sharp Shoot Media Ltd, a company co-owned by Steven Dalli and Justin Farrugia, has been occupying parts of Television House in Guardamangia since 2015, through a lease contract signed with PBS Malta Ltd.
A spokesman for PBS confirmed that the private entity has been allowed to use part of the State broadcaster’s premises, which also hosts its largest television studio.
While not saying whether a public call was made, the spokesman confirmed that Sharp Shoot Media is the only private company allowed to use the public premises.
“The lessees are a co-producing content broadcast on PBS media,” the spokesman said.
Sharp Shoot Media, formed in 2013, has been the recipient of thousands of euros paid by PBS for producing various TV programmes aired on Television Malta, particularly drama series which were well received by viewers.
Every year, through a Public Service Obligation agreement, PBS receives millions in government funds to ‘buy’ programmes for its schedule.
The National Audit Office in the past highlighted the lack of transparency in this process.
In recent years, Sharp Shoot Media was also given a number of direct orders by government entities, including ‘marketing services’ for the Justice Ministry, which incidentally is also responsible for PBS.
Media industry sources told Times of Malta that while there is nothing wrong in PBS leasing out space on its premises to other TV production houses, this has to be done in a transparent way where all production houses can participate on an equal footing.
“It’s very convenient to be working inside the same premises that is feeding you,” a source said.
Very convenient to be working inside the same premises that is feeding you
“We cannot understand why this particular company is the only one given the privilege,” they said.
When contacted, both directors of Sharp Shoot Media said they were directly contacted by Anton Attard, then PBS CEO, to rent out parts of Television House.
Mr Attard confirmed that the concept was to have such companies occupying space at PBS. However, he said that since he left the broadcaster he had no idea whether the project had continued.
According to the contract, the company is leasing the office space, some 30 square metres, for €300 a month.
But the company does not need to fork out a cent as a clause in the contract says that “the amount due will be set-off annually by PBS against the amount due to Sharp Shoot Media by PBS”.
“Our main client has been TVM and our programmes Strada Stretta and l-Għarusa have been main contributors to the national TV station,” Mr Farrugia and Mr Dalli said.
“Given the scale of the programmes we provide, it is natural that we wanted to be as close to the station since we are all the time dealing with last-minute changes proposed to us by the stations’ quality control department,” they said.
PBS Malta Ltd is currently receiving some €4 million a year from public coffers.